Worldreader ♥ the US Government: USAID says yes!
By David Risher
Trashing a government agency is an easy sport. Take your pick of insults: they’re hidebound, ineffective, isolated from the real world. But our experience has been the opposite: twice in the past few weeks we’ve received great news from Washington. We’ve already written about the first, but this one is even bigger: official approval from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) funding the evaluation of our iREAD project. The agreement was made possible as part of USAID’s innovative Global Development Alliance program, and it has many implications for Worldreader. From a practical standpoint it is a major donation to Worldreader: it provides funding for the “M&E” (measurement and evaluation) of our work putting e-readers into 350+ kids’ hands Ghana. Independent impact evaluation is very important to us and to future funders because it assesses where we are succeeding getting kids reading more, and where we are not.
In addition, this agreement allows us to ship e-readers, cases, and the like as diplomatic cargo. Our work in education means that customs duties (which can be as much as the value of the e-readers themselves) don’t apply, so our donors’ money can go directly to funding program costs instead of paying fees.
But the future value of this agreement is even greater. USAID (and specifically the heroic Bob Davidson, the Education Officer in Ghana) truly dedicated themselves to understanding our project, vetting our organization, and helping us fine-tune our pilot. It’s very unusual for an organization as young as ours to receive this kind of assistance– many USAID GDA partners are large, established corporations like P&G (working to bring clean drinking water to flood victims in Pakistan), Johnson & Johnson (participating in AIDS training in Russia), or SC Johnson (developing a natural insecticide in Rwanda.) We’re not quite in the same league… but we hope our work has just as great an impact.
Our mission of bringing books to all, together with our approach, clearly struck a cord with USAID, and it did so in record time.